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Daily Devotional • December 12

Pamela Lewis
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 22:39-53

39 He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” 41 Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me, yet not my will but yours be done.” [[43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44 In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.]] 45 When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”

47 While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” 49 When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” 50 Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as though I were a rebel? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour and the power of darkness!”

Though Judas betrayed Jesus, we should realize that all the disciples betrayed him; each of them felt varying degrees of anger, disappointment, and fear, because they believed Jesus had betrayed them. Rather than fulfilling their hope for the great liberator who would make the right political moves to conquer the Romans, Jesus kept talking about the kingdom and his imminent death. What kind of hero was this?

I count myself among those who hold mixed feelings about Judas. On one hand, he is the poster child for betrayal, the trusted friend who sold off his teacher to leaders who wanted to bring Jesus down. However, I also see Judas unwittingly enacting the words of the psalmist, who had prophetically described the traitor who shared bread with his friend, only later to turn on him (Ps. 41:9; Ps. 55:12-14). I can pity him as one of those who “know not what they do,” who is unaware of the dire role he is playing in the fulfillment of God’s plan.

Judas was not God’s puppet, as some would suggest; like all humans, he had the God-given ability to choose between a good and evil action. Yet he chose evil, the result of inauthentic discipleship, which ultimately betrayed and deprived him of reconciliation with God. Despite his tragic end, this disciple’s journey helps me to consider whether I am a follower or merely a fan of Jesus. 

Pamela A. Lewis taught French for 30 years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, New York, she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New Yorker, Episcopal Journal, and The Living Church.

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Today we pray for:

The Missionary Diocese of OgoriMagongo – The Church of Nigeria
All Saints’ Episcopal Church, San Diego, California
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